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Commander’s Column

Col. Robert “L.A.” Brooks, Wing Commander, 104 Fighter Wing, Barnes ANGB

Col. Robert “L.A.” Brooks, Wing Commander, 104 Fighter Wing, Barnes ANGB

Barnes Air National Guard Base, 104 Fighter Wing - Westfield, Mass -- Last week, I was TDY to First Air Force. I was able to hear first hand from many of our Air Force leaders that we are well on our way to becoming the most well respected F-15 unit in the Combat Air Force. That is a tribute to all the hard work you have done: completing the unit's conversion and standing up the Air Sovereignty Alert mission. The next step to continue down that road is to be prepared for and execute our upcoming inspections to an 'Outstanding' level.

I want to digress a little as we gear up for this ORE. We received sad news on April 20th that we lost a Massachusetts Army National Guard member, Sgt. Robert J. Barrett to an IED explosion in Kabul Afghanistan. During the explosion, 8 other members of his team were severally injured. When I heard this sobering news, I immediately began to think of all our members who are down-range, engaging with an enemy that has made its intentions clear: that they will, at all cost, fight to destroy the American way of life. At last count, we have 31 members engaging in this war, with 12 more preparing to deploy. I ask that you keep these members in mind when you go through the motions of deploying in this drill's exercise, and understanding that ultimately, that is what we all signed up to do: defend our country with our lives if needed.

Amidst all our success, we need to remember we are still an expeditionary fighting force that has both a home station mission, ASA, but also an away-game, defending our freedoms wherever we are called to serve. Our exercise is just one vehicle to prepare ourselves both physically and mentally to accept that challenge when it comes.

This month we will observe Memorial Day on the 31st of May. It's a day in which the whole country pays homage to the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for the freedoms we hold so true. I ask each of you to approach this drill with a sense of purpose as you take the flag from our fallen comrades and continue on the march toward victory. As said by Sir Thomas Paine, one of America's founding fathers, "It is not a field of a few acres of ground, but a cause, that we are defending, and whether we defeat the enemy in one battle, or by degrees, the consequences will be the same."